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Selection by the Spirit exemplified in Acts January 17, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Barnabas, Body of Christ, Church Membership, Holy Spirit, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth.
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Selection by the Holy Spirit
Acts 12:25-13:5

The Holy Spirit is the personnel officer of the Trinity. He is well qualified for this task because He has the ability to see the big picture of eternity, because He can accurately evaluate each one of us, and because He can enable us in areas where we are lacking.

“While he was manager of the Chicago Cubs, Charlie Grimm reportedly received a phone call from one of his scouts. The man was excited and began to shout over the telephone, ‘Charlie, I’ve landed the greatest young pitcher in the land! He struck out every man who came to bat. Twenty-seven in a row. Nobody even hit a foul until the ninth inning. The pitcher is right here with me. What shall I do?’ Charlie replied, ‘Sign up the guy who got the foul. We’re looking for hitters.’ ” The Holy Spirit knows exactly what is needed to accomplish the task of the church (from John Maxwell’s “Developing the Leaders Around You”).

So the first question we need to ask ourselves is this? Has the Holy Spirit selected you?

1. The Scriptures teach that every member of the body of Christ is selected by the Spirit to serve (Compare Acts 11:29-30 and 12:25 with 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and (Romans 12:3).

This particular passage (Acts 13:1-5) describes the Holy Spirit’s selection of two men, Paul and Barnabas, for missionary service. We read this and forget that the Holy Spirit was working in the whole church at Antioch in this selection process. Acts 11:19-30 tells how the church began and how that every believer was actively involved in ministry in telling others of Christ and in serving other believers. It is this church where they were first called Christians. What we find in this church is Holy Spirit working in every member. This is the atmosphere out of which the Spirit selected Paul and Barnabas.

2. Every ministry of every believer and in every church is important to the Holy Spirit (Every church in Ephesus had an overseer because every group of believers is important to the growth of the overall body of Christ, Acts 20:28-35).

a. Why? The Holy Spirit gives us our ministry to benefit others.

i. For example, the Holy Spirit was given to the body of Christ so that we might be able to witness effectively of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). This is the theme of the book of Acts, that is, how God through the Holy Spirit used the first believers to reach the world with the gospel of Christ. It is God’s intention that all men should hear the gospel through us. According to Ephesians 4, that is a benefit to us as the body of Christ.

ii. Evangelism is not however the only benefit of ministry. It is also God’s intention that all who hear and believe should be added to the church through the Holy Spirit spiritually and through open identification with Christ and His body physically. This is the way it happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:38, 41).

iii. The church’s task does not end there. All in the body of Christ should grow to be mature spiritually (Compare Matthew 28:19-20 with Acts 2:42). We do not do that in isolation (see Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12-14).

iv. Finally, all who are growing should minister to one another (Acts 2:44-45). Spiritual growth equips us for ministry (Compare Romans 12:1-2 with Ephesians 4:12). Now all this was a result of the gift of the Spirit to the body of Christ (Acts 2:38b).

b. Because the Holy Spirit gives us our ministry to benefit others, every believer has something important to contribute (Acts 11:29 compared with 2 Corinthians 8-9). What do you have? You may not have much but if you have anything at all, God expects you to give it. This may include money but it can also include time, strength, talent, insight, encouragement, and prayer. We all though have something important to contribute.

Even a smile and a handshake are important gifts that God allows us to give to one another. I found out this week why after the offering, our men shake hands with each other. Two of our men got that started some years ago. It is a joyful symbol of Christian hospitality. We do not practice the holy kiss here. We are too American for that but when the two ushers smile and shake hands after serving you and serving God through collecting the offering, it reminds us that we are family in Christ, we are brothers and sisters. We are not just gathering money to meet a budget but we are a body of believers who love each other and are committed to each other and to our Lord and to the task which He has given us.

Is that not the significance of the laying on of hands in Acts 13:3? These men were not transferring magic powers to Paul and Barnabas. They were through this symbolic act reassuring these two men and testifying to God that they not only approved but were committed to being a part of their mission to the Gentiles and were through the laying on of hands committing their care and success to God (Acts 15:26-28). This group of men and the church that they led were committed, committed to each other, committed to the Lord, and committed to the task which He had given them to do.

This is an example of the fact that the success of the body is determined by the contribution of many. “At a Midwestern fair, many spectators gathered for an old-fashioned horse pull… The grand-champion horse pulled a sled with 4,500 pounds on it. The runner-up was close, with a 4,400-pound pull. Some of the men wondered what the two horses could pull if hitched together. Separately they totaled nearly 9,000 pounds, but when hitched and working together as a team, they pulled over 12,000 pounds.”

3. Now the reason why the Holy Spirit has decided that it was important to select each of us is clear. The Spirit has decided to make us dependent on each other (Acts 11:29; compare Acts 13:5 with 15:37-40; see also 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Very few if any physical tasks are performed using just one part of the body. Each believer has a unique design and function that is intended for dependence on others.

Dependence demands more than involvement. It demands commitment. Service or ministry is more than involvement. Football coach Lou Holtz once said, “The kamikaze pilot that was able to fly 50 missions was involved – but never committed.”

That defines one of our tasks as church leaders. We must do more than involve you in ministry. We must challenge you to commitment in ministry with this local church.

There are those who use their ministry to the greater body of Christ as a reason not to commit themselves to a local body of believers. Their lack of commitment to an individual body helps them to maintain their independence. They have chosen to remove themselves from the very source of spiritual strength and growth that God intends for them to be dependent on and have isolated themselves from others who God wants to depend on them.

Dependence on each other and commitment to each other is sometimes a very difficult. There are times when we say, I just do not want to be responsible for someone else. There is, however, no time when a body part can withdraw from the body. There are times of rest, yes, sleep is necessary to the health of the body but even at rest there is no part of my body that can become independent from the rest of my body. Dependence on each other and responsibility for each other remains as long as we are part of the body of Christ.

Independence can be dangerous. Two shipwrecked men sat together at one end of a lifeboat, doing nothing. As they watched intently, the people at the other end of the boat were bailing furiously. One man then said to the other, “Thank God that hole isn’t in our end of the boat.”

4. The Holy Spirit has made us dependent on each other, He has uniquely designed each of us for our ministry (Acts 13:1-4).

That is why no member should think too highly of himself or herself. “The most traumatizing condition in the body occurs when disloyal cells defy inhibition. They multiply without any checks on growth, spreading rapidly throughout the body, choking out normal cells… Physicians fear no other malfunction more deeply: it is called cancer” (from Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey). You see cancer is when one cell or group of cells act as if their design is more important than all others. We need to realize that every cell in the body of Christ is uniquely designed by the Spirit of Christ and is necessary to the body.

Four Applications:
1. Thank God for including you in the body
2. Present yourself a living sacrifice.
3. Tell God you’re available.
4. Tell us you’re available.

Next week: Led by the Spirit of God

Paying Attention to Your Brethren – A Sermon from Hebrews 12 January 27, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Church Membership, Hebrews, Religion, Sermons.
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PAYING ATTENTION TO OUR CHURCH FAMILY

Hebrews 12:7-17

 

Hebrews teaches us that the foundation of our lives as believers is Jesus Christ. Why then give so much time to the church? The primary reason given in the book of Hebrews is that the church and the individual members have enormous impact on whether the truth about Christ is accepted or not. This is especially important for us to consider in these times when it seems as if the concept of the church is under constant attack. We live in a day when many believers refuse to commit themselves to the church. There are a lot of reasons given and there are at times some reasons why one should not join a particular church.

A GOOD REASON NOT TO JOIN OUR CHURCH 

Let me give you an example of a reason why you should not join this church. This church believes that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. Now if you believe that reaching a certain standard of goodness is sufficient to satisfy God, you should not join this church. You are welcome to worship with us and you can even to a certain extent take part in the life of the church but you should not join this church because what we believe is not only different but is of such importance to us that we have no real foundation for a working relationship.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST CHURCH MEMBERSHIP 

Now there are those who say, “We belong to the whole body of Christ, so we are not going to let ourselves be tied down to commitment to one group within that body.” This attitude is similar to that of a man who marries a woman and then refuses to give up his loyalty to his old family. We often emphasize from God’s command in Genesis that spouses are not to leave each other and that is true. It is also true that they are to cleave each other. My ultimate loyalty in my physical family is to be to my wife. Not to my parents. Not to my siblings. Not even to my children. Are they all part of my family? Absolutely, but my loyalty, my commitment is to be to my wife and that commitment trumps every other family commitment. In the same way, we are a part of a larger body, the body of Christ but we are committed to a specific portion of that body, the Fellowship Bible Church.

There are others who argue that church membership is not found in Scriptures. If what they mean is that there is not an establishment of a list specifically commanded, then they are correct. What we do find in the New Testament is a body of people who are committed to each other and bound to each other in such a way that when someone rejects the truth, or dishonors Christ and His church, or causes constant division in the church, they are by the church body put out officially. In other words, by not joining a church, a believer is avoiding the commitment to other believers that Christ demands from us.

I would like to illustrate this with an example from an earthly family. For a believer to attend a church and not join is comparable to a man and a woman cohabitating with each other without the commitment of a marriage license. There may very well be an emotional commitment on some level but for some reason, the bets have been hedged.

You see, with commitment comes risk. With commitment comes a yielding of the will. With commitment comes demands and responsibility. Of course, commitment also brings with it blessing and privilege.

The passage that we are looking at today explains what this commitment is supposed to accomplish within the church body.

THE NORMAL LOT OF THE CHRISTIAN 

As children of God, we must endure chastening or discipline (12:7 with verses 2-3). We normally think of chastisement as painful and that aspect of chastisement is emphasized in this passage. The writer points out that as children of God we are to endure chastisement. This word is used in verses 2 and 3 of this same chapter.

 

2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

 

Now these verses point out a characteristic of endurance that we need to remember. Endurance is only needed during times of intense pain. When you are lying under a shade tree soaking in the summer breeze, the great need is for lemonade and not endurance. It is when the storms blow and howl that we need endurance. It was no different for our Savior than it is for us and because He suffered successfully we can have hope that we also will be able to endure the discipline and chastisement that God brings on us.

A TOUGH VERSE 

Chastening means training, correction, learning, discipline (verses 8-10). Now when I was a kid, verse 8 bothered me a lot. On face value, what this verse means is that those who are not chastened are not in God’s family, they are not saved, they are on their way to an eternal hell. I knew that I was saved but I also knew that I sinned much more than I should be which made me wonder whether I was saved or not. I also knew that in spite of my sin, it did not look like God was doing anything about it. I was healthy and my family was healthy. We were not rich and although my parents struggled to make ends meet, I never knew hunger growing up. My grades were up and for the most part it seemed like I had a pretty good life. I began to wonder, maybe the reason God is not punishing me is because I am not really saved. I remember one Sunday night, we were sitting in the car at Mill Creek Baptist Church near Falkville, Alabama. I asked my dad about this verse. He explained to me that chastisement and punishment are not the same. The word means discipline, correction, training, learning. He pointed out that the very fact that the verse bothered me indicated that the Holy Spirit was working in my life to open my eyes to the truth of His Word.

The point is that our Heavenly Father is concerned about making His children into spiritual adults. That is the main concern of a good father. Making his son into a man. Everything he does is concerned with the fact that this child is not going to stay the same. In the same way, the Father’s primary work today is making His children into spiritual adults.

That is why He gave the Bible. 2 Timothy 3 says that all Scripture is given so that we may be mature, capable of doing spiritual works. There is a sense in which the Bible is a training regimen that gives us nourishment. There is no junk food in the Bible. It is all wholesome, full of spiritual vitamins and minerals and energy and the Holy Spirit helps us to digest it and to draw what we need from it.

“TOUGH IS GOOD!” (Comedian Brad Stein) 

Chastening though also means pain (verse 11). If the Bible is our food and the Holy Spirit helps us to digest that spiritual food, then painful chastisement is the exercise that is necessary to turn the protein of the Bible into muscle and not into fat. You can eat well, eat healthy but if you do not exercise, you will not become strong. Certainly not all exercises are painful but to become really strong, to become truly mature, there will be some pain of varying intensities and for various reasons. That is our lot as children of God. The result though is mature fruit that meets His expectations.

WHERE DOES THE CHURCH COME IN? 

As siblings in Christ, we are responsible to facilitate that training, correction, learning, and discipline (12:12-17). You cannot grow as you should in isolation. Ephesians 4 makes it very clear that we as a church are to help each other to grow up together to become one like Christ. The picture here is that when our Father is sending our brother or sister through the ringer, we are to be there for them and the purpose of being there for each other is to help one another to grow.

THE LIFEBOAT ANALOGY 

Often the Christian life has been compared to a lifeboat. “The unredeemed life is as if we were about to perish on a crippled ship threatening to sink as a result of sustaining irreparable damage in a menacing storm. Lifeboats arrive to rescue us and begin the perilous journey to the safety of the shore. Once in the saving vessel, however, the storm rages on. No one is quite sure when the storm may dissipate or when another may erupt on the way to safety. While we may experience smooth sailing for a time, we very well could be smothered with peril again. Reaching the safe confines of the shore is the ultimate goal.”

“Making the exchange from a sinking to a saving vessel is the initiation of salvation, or justification; the voyage in the lifeboat is the working out of our salvation (see Phil 2:12), or sanctification; and reaching the shore is our final arrival in heaven. This is the consummation of salvation, or glorification (Paul Jackson in Mound’s Basics of Biblical Greek, page 278).”

We are not though in the storms of life left alone. God has given us the church, our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us and to strengthen us during our journey through the storm to the shore.

SUPPORTING EACH OTHER IN OUR WEAKNESS 

We support each other when the learning is painful (verse 12-13). This is why it is important to be a part of a church family. There are days when I am limping spiritually. I just cannot take another step. I am learning but it looks like I am going to die before I get the lesson that God wants me to learn. I read the Bible and nothing happens. I listen to the Spirit and silence is all I hear. It is then that I need my local church family.

Now that does not happen if you try to keep yourself away from others. You can join this church and not allow anyone to get close to you and you will limp around, not making progress because you are running the race alone. I know it is hard to trust people and it would be a rare church where every member could be trusted but if you do not allow God’s people to have an impact on you, you might learn a lot of Scripture but you will not mature.

I think of those who I have known in the past whose Bible knowledge was complete but they would not integrate themselves into the life of the church and although I saw evidence of their scriptural knowledge, they did not grow spiritually. They allowed themselves to get spiritually fat and proud and when God started putting them through the paces, they ran to their room, slammed the door, and screamed at His people, “Leave me alone! Stay away! I’ve been hurt! I don’t need you! I’m not going to let a church hurt me again! Let them see if they can do without me!” And they drift, and they drift, and they drift and sometimes…spiritually…they do not come back.

HUNTING PEACE WITH A PASSION 

By pursuing a peace with each other based on our holiness in Christ (verse 14). There are those who believe that Christ is more important than His church. That is not the picture in this verse. We are to pursue peace with one another. We are to give it first priority. Last fall when some of you fellows drove to the Midwest and set up your equipment and got up at three or four in the morning so that you can sit outside in freezing or rainy weather, pursuing that ten pointer. That is exactly how important our brothers and sisters in Christ are supposed to be to us. Sometimes it is possible to put the matter out of view and let it die a slow death but when after a year or two or more it is clear that you need to get your hunting boots on and go to that person and start pursuing peace. It is hard. You are absolutely right but if you are to grow as your Father wants you to and if that person is going to grow as they need to, you are going to have to give peace with other people priority in your life. The importance of Christ’s church (peace) is bundled with pursuing Christ (holiness).

EVERY  CHURCH MEMBER A SHEPHERD 

By watching over each other carefully (verses 15-17). The word hear means “oversee.” A synonym might mean shepherd. Who are you shepherding over in our church?

That’s why our Wednesday night prayer meeting is so important. That is a time that we have specifically set aside to pray for your spiritual growth. Some of you need to be there and help us shepherd those who God is putting through the ringer.

Some of you need to start praying for each other at home. Others of you need to reach out to others during the week to maintain contact with each other. Some of you have been going to church for a year with other people in this church and you have not made the effort once to greet someone other than the people who you greet every week. This is not a social club but a family where every person should be interested in strengthening and helping and shepherding one aother with whatever means the Lord may have given you.

Others of you need to get involved in a small group of some type. We cannot carry this type of healing and peace pursuing and shepherding ministry in our Sunday morning service as effectively as we can when a group of people get together week after week to share with each other and care for each other. It is vital that you get connected with others within the church body. More people leave the church because they do not feel at home than for any other reason. It takes more than a welcome mat and a cup of coffee to make a church a family.

 

THE DANGERS OF IGNORING THE LOCAL CHURCH 

You see, you cannot ignore and neglect the church family. If you do, you will be hampered in your spiritual growth and others will be hampered in their spiritual growth. None of us get to the point where we do not need the help and attention of our spiritual family.

 

What will happen if we do not pay attention to our church family. That is described for us in verses 15-17. Extreme wickedness. My personal feeling (based on my understanding of the book of Hebrews) is that those who are sitting on the fence in their faith will fall off onto the wrong side into a pool of wickedness out of which they will never be able to get out. Do you realize that there may be people here, who are not really saved who could eventually reject Christ based on the fact that the church family did not pay attention? Do you realize that there are people who are not here today that were here a year ago, who found it easy to drop out because they did not feel that they belonged, they did not feel that we were their family? If everyone of us begins to start changing our neglectful ways, we will be able both to bring each other to spiritual growth and to prevent others from turning from Christ to the world and its eternal damnation. What would God have you to change?

 

Hobby-horse time! Is the local church important? With links… September 1, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Church Membership, Religion, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Growth.
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What does a pastor do when a subject upsets him? Sometimes he rants about it in his sermon preparation and then deletes the paragraph from the sermon manuscript. 🙂

Seriously, the subject is not easy to deal with and the practical problems of formal church membership against informal church membership are not all addressed directly in Scriptures. Below are some links attempting to do so. I’ve followed that with a rant that was deleted from the sermon because I recognized it as a rant and not pertinent to the text that I am preaching from this Sunday.

From Grace Church

Again from Grace Church

 From Fundamentally Reformed

Again from Fundamentally Reformed 

Earlier Link Categorized under the Body of Christ This link should have been catogorized under Church Membership. Other good categories are Spiritual Growth and Spiritual Disciplines. If church attendance, membership, etc. are viewed from this light, it makes a difference in one’s attitude toward the subject. There is a lack of evidence of formal church membership in the New Testament. There is overwhelming evidence for the necessity of Christian fellowship (church body life) in bringing someone to maturity in Christ. That is the point of the rant below. I would also include Ephesians 4-5 as strong evidence of the importance of involvement in the local church as a spiritual discipline leading to spiritual growth. We are to grow together and not just as individuals. Thus the practical demand for a membership commitment.

THE RANT 

The command to turn to Jesus is mentioned in a number of contexts in the book of Hebrews but two of these are somewhat unique. We find them in 3:12-13; 10:23-25. Both command the people in the church to exhort each other. In the first passage it says daily that we need to exhort each other in the faith in Jesus Christ. In the second passage it says that we are to assemble ourselves together as often as possible so that we can exhort and encourage each other in the doctrine and in the love of Jesus Christ.

It is fashionable nowadays to consider church membership and church attendance as legalistic. Certainly, wrongly emphasized it can be but I am afraid that we have lost my generation and the generations younger than me to the world because Christ was not important enough for us to gather together and to exhort and to encourage each other. We have trouble making time for the fellowship of the body with the church because we have been deceived into thinking it does not really matter. We have all kinds of excuses but when all is said and done, too many things are more important to us than getting together with God’s people for prayer, Bible study, fellowship, worship, service.

Psalm 1 and 2 (the baptism links are thrown in for fun) August 11, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Body of Christ, Church Membership, Messiah, OT Preaching, Personalities, Psalms, Religion, Systematic Theology.
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For those who have missed the last two Wednesday nights, here is a little something that you might enjoy. Randy McKinion discusses the connection between Psalm 1 and Psalm 2. Come on Wednesday night, we’re studying Psalm 3

Here is an interesting series of exchanges on believer’s baptism and church membership. (HT:  Justin Taylor and Adrian Warnock)

http://theologica.blogspot.com/2007/08/grudems-change-of-mind-regarding.html

http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/757_response_to_grudem_on_baptism_and_church_membership/

http://theologica.blogspot.com/2007/08/grudem-response-to-piper.html

How important is it that members be baptized believers? How important is it that teachers in the church be members? Should baptism be a requirement for church membership? How do we define the fellowship of local church? The practical application of these and other questions are discussed in the exchange. (By the way, I tend to agree with Grudem.)